Sunday, November 14, 2010

Welcome Kanna Takano! Born on 10.23.10

Congrats to Hiroko! Who had a pretty quick first birth completely natural. Awesome job!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Welcome Taku! Born at home on 7.11.10

Twin brothers and father welcome Taku

Thank you Tara for the wonderful homebirth of Taku!
We are so happy that we could share our joy of his birth with you.
It was such a wonderful experience to get to know each other
through prenatal visits, labor and birth, and postpartum visits.
I can say that home birth was a right choice for our family.
Taku's brothers and father were so happy to be together with
him at home right after the birth.

Thank you again for your support and warm smiles.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome Berwin! Born on 4.23.10 at home.

Big brother Asher holding Berwin

Almost three years ago, my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world naturally with the help of a midwife and a nurse in a hospital not far from our home. The experience was as good as we could have hoped for in a hospital. Yet, being a hospital, there are rules, procedures, shifts and staff who operate within the rhythms of the building, as opposed to its visitors. This element, the ‘hospital machinery’, was our primary concern as we prepared ourselves for the birth. And although it was a smooth and relatively quick labor and delivery, we felt as though we always needed to be on our guard, almost defensive, so that we were not swept up into the current that has come to define the hospital birth in modern U.S. society.

The experience was a whirlwind. We were in and out in about a day and a half. People came in and out of the room to take tests and do blood pressure readings. They even woke me in the middle of the night to check my vitals. I remember thinking that we needed to hurry home before the “cutoff” just so that we could have a nurse visit us at home. Frankly, I couldn’t wait to get home. The experience was as good as we could have hoped for, but it was still a bewildering tango with the “machine”.

As time passed, and I had a chance to reflect on the experience, I became more and more aware that although the hospital was OK, it was not what I wanted the experience of childbirth to be, and was certainly not what I thought it could be. The natural process of labor was interrupted by having to get into the car to go to a hospital that wasn’t even a mile from the house. There were red lights, quick stops, and bumps in the road that were extremely uncomfortable and may have even prolonged the process of labor. On arrival we had to deal with admission while I was trying to breathe and relax through each surge. I finally had to get settled into an unfamiliar environment with people who I had never met. All of these extra intrusions and distractions happened before actually giving birth, and without anything even being amiss.

We loved welcoming our child into the world, but there had to be a better way. When we decided to start trying for a second child, we began learning more about home births, and it was clearly the right choice for us. We had interviewed many midwives, but once we met Tara, we knew she was going to be the one to support us. Her personality, calming disposition and genuine ability to connect with us made us even more comfortable with the idea of a home birth.

When the big day came, everything felt so natural. There was no rushing around, no unfamiliar people, and no moments of intrusion to take me out of the beautiful process as it unfolded. With my mind and body at ease, our second child was born during our older son’s nap. In hindsight, it was fast. Labor was only three hours. Because we were able to do it at home, and Tara was so good at both warmly reassuring and professionally monitoring the birth, my husband and I both felt a strange absence of time. The birth was neither fast nor slow, we just experienced everything as it happened. No stressors, no intrusions, no pressure. I felt relaxed, safe, and at peace in the comfort of our own home. It was everything that I hoped childbirth could be, and was an amazingly powerful experience.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Welcome O.T. Born at home on 8.28.10!

After several weeks of the baby’s head being parked on my bladder and Braxton Hicks that left me breathless, early labor started around 5:30′ ish or 6:00′ ish in the morning. My father-in-law took V to a friends’ house in the morning when contractions picked up around 8:00 or 9:00am.

Tig and I went for a short walk and I needed to stop at each contraction. When we came home, Tig filled up the birth tub, and we were joined by our two midwives (Audra Karp and Tara Kenny) shortly after.

From there, I watched a bit of Lord of the Rings and a bit of the new Fame movie as a distraction between waves. Later, I switched over to a simple counting breath technique. I labored until about 12:00′ish, when contractions started to become more and more challenging.

Audra checked me at my request and I was at 9cm. Shortly after, my water broke and the waves kept coming one on top of the other, and I started to have doubts about crossing the finish line. After an hour of pushing, and some hollering, O shot out like a cannonball.

“Oh, there’s the baby,” Audra said calmly and scooped him out of the water. So *technically*, no one “caught” him.

Welcome baby O, we’ve been so eager to meet you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome Sachi! Born on 8.12.10

Sachi’s Birth Story

The birth of my daughter began very slowly with two days of latent labor. On Tuesday I woke up to some signs of impending labor, and by midnight I started having mild contractions. They were small enough that I wasn’t excited about an imminent delivery, but strong enough that they interfered with my sleep. The next morning I called in sick to work and went shopping with my husband for some supplies in case that day was the day, although I didn’t think that was likely. I spoke with Tara by phone, and she told me to keep doing what I was doing – the process could take a while. But she also assured me that even though the contractions were small, my body was doing some very important work. It was reassuring to have her “with us” from at the very beginning.

Wednesday night the mild contractions continued, and I slept fitfully. On the morning of Thursday, August 12, I called my obstetrician to see if I should still go to my scheduled prenatal appointment, and she said I should come in. My doctor examined me and told me I was one centimeter dilated and ninety percent effaced. I was definitely in early labor, she said, but things could still take a long time. She asked if I wanted to come back at the end of the day so she could examine me again and let me know how I was doing. I had some reservations about a second examination as I thought it would be frustrating if my labor hadn’t progressed. I talked to Tara about this and she agreed, telling me to do whatever felt right. We went home and spent the day doing the same as we had the day before – reading, watching movies, eating, and getting fresh air when we felt like it. At this point I was convinced that it would be at least a few more days before anything happened, and I was prepared for the entire process to stall entirely and restart later. I was frustrated, but I knew I had no control over the situation. Little did I know my daughter would be born that day!

Later in the afternoon I did go to see my obstetrician again. I learned that I was two centimeters dilated and one hundred percent effaced. It still didn’t seem that encouraging me to me, however, because I didn’t really feel that I was “in labor,” but my OB said that she considered the fact that I was one hundred percent effaced to be significant. She also said that things could pick up quickly from now, but I was still prepared for a long wait. I just didn’t feel any momentum to the labor.

Back at home I practiced relaxing, stretching, and breathing through the contractions. As time passed I developed a constant backache that intensified during the contractions but didn’t go away when they ended. I took a warm bath to try and ease the discomfort which felt great. It was while I was in the bath that I started to really feel that I was in labor. At about 5:30, I told my husband to call Tara, update her on how I was doing, and see if it was time to come over to help me labor at home. Tara agreed that we should start thinking about her coming over, and I was relieved as it was exactly the time I started to feel that I really needed her support. After that I labored in the living room, bending over the couch with each contraction and moaning with my husband by my side, rubbing my back. I visualized myself opening up with each contraction and letting go. We had agreed that we would delay going to the hospital as much as possible, because it was more comfortable to be at home, but because I hoped to have as natural a birth as possible.

At about eight o’clock Tara arrived at our place. She was calm and smiling, and I took comfort in the fact that, though I was increasingly uncomfortable, everything I was experiencing was normal. She assured me over and over, “your body knows what to do,” and this definitely helped me to let go with each contraction. Soon after Tara arrived, I began to feel we should head to the hospital. Not only was I anxious to get to the place where my baby would actually be born, I was secretly thinking that then I could also ask for an epidural. We labored at home for about an hour, my husband and Tara helping me with each contraction. At about nine o’clock we headed to the hospital and arrived twenty minutes later. By this time I was really in the throes of labor. My husband pushed me in a wheelchair up to the labor and delivery floor. Once there, the nurses saw how uncomfortable I was and got me quickly into a room. It was at this point I turned to Tara and said, “I want an epidural.” She calmly and gently reminded me that most women hit a wall at some point in labor, and I was hitting mine. Though I had asked her to help me go without pain medication, I wasn’t happy to hear this. But somehow I managed to trust her and focused on managing the next contraction and adapting to my new surroundings. Tara helped by minimizing the number of people in the room, dimming the lights, and simply remaining calm and present.

My initial exam revealed that I was six centimeters dilated. Everyone said how great this was, but I felt I should be more like eight centimeters by that point. Being up on the bed was at first uncomfortable, but after a while I got used to handling the contractions lying down. I remember that a few were so bad, I broke from the low moans and let out some higher-pitched screams. Tara coached me back to vocalizing at a lower register and kept me as calm as possible. I remember again saying that I couldn’t do it. Tara and my husband kept telling me that yes, I could do it, and that I was doing it. Then the three of us would deal with the next contraction. That’s how we got through transition – one contraction at a time.

At around eleven, the doctor did another exam and told me I was fully dilated. I was so relieved I think I cried a bit, or at least felt like crying. A few minutes later we began pushing. All along, I had been most frightened of this stage because I couldn’t imagine how a baby could pass out of me without huge amounts of pain. But ironically, it felt good to push because it was relieving a lot of the pressure I was feeling and putting the contractions to use. The pushing went quickly – half an hour after we started my daughter was born! I remember opening my eyes, looking up, and seeing the doctor hold her up. The next thing I knew she was on my stomach, and I held her to me. I will never, ever forget the moment she opened her eyes at looked at me. That was really when I saw my daughter for the first time – her eyes said everything. We named her Sachi, a Japanese name meaning “happiness.”

Soon after, I delivered the placenta, and had a small tear stitched up. As we had planned, Sachi stayed on me the entire time, except for a few minutes when she was weighed and swaddled. Though there were several medical professionals in the room, they gave us a lot of space. Sometime after midnight Tara helped us start breastfeeding. I was grateful for her guidance; there was no pressure to get it “right” on the first try. Sachi proved to be quite a determined baby, and attempted to latch over and over. We didn’t perfect our technique right away, but later that night Sachi wanted to eat again and that’s when we had our first successful feeding.

I honestly never really thought I would have a completely natural childbirth. I just knew I wanted to participate as actively as possible in my labor and to avoid most medical intervention. But generally, I was simply open to whatever seemed right. I was completely confident that Tara understood our wishes and would do all she could to make them happen. In the end, things turned out better than I had hoped. With the help of Tara and my husband, I was able to experience birth at its full intensity. It was extremely difficult and at times terrifying for me, but it ended up being one of the proudest moments of my life, and certainly the happiest.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome Isabella Valdesolo! Born on 6/17/10

Tara's patience, kindness and knowledge kept us sane throughout the pregnancy and birth. Thanks for helping introduce us to Isabella!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcome Maybe Amelia! Born on 5/16/10

On day 12 past her due date, we headed to Tara's house to do a non-stress test to make sure we were good to wait it out. I was in tears before I even got into her house, the frustration of being even later than I was with Sam was taking a toll and I didn't want to watch my homebirth slip away. That familiar feeling of wondering if my body was failing at this was not a pleasant one. Tara was wonderful and reassuring, and said she might be comfortable going a day or two past the 42 week mark (assuming the NST and BPP were okay) since I was not 100% sure of my dates.

We talked about natural induction methods, and agreed that a stretch & sweep was the first thing we'd go for if I hadn't started labor by Saturday. I wasn't entirely happy with the idea of having that done, but if we had to coax labor along, this was a better alternative.

The baby passed the NST with flying colors . Then we went to the ultrasound place for a bio-physical was fine, head down, average sized (not that I was concerned about that, Samantha made me less afraid of 10+ pound babies) and the fluid level and placenta were both great. So, we headed home to continue to wait.

Friday night after we went to bed, things started to move. Lots of pink tinged mucous, and then full on bloody show as the night went on. A few random scattered contractions but nothing exciting. The next morning they petered out, but the "show" continued. We called Tara and agreed to put off the stretch & sweep until further notice. We went about our day, Alex set up the pool and filled it halfway with room temperature water, and we made up the bed with plastic underneath between two sets of sheets. We made sure all the odds & ends supplies were in place and then went to Framingham to the farm to pick up milk (and raw milk ice cream, which they finally had for the first time!) Joan got a kick out of seeing me again, still pregnant, and thought it was a riot when I told her I was actually in early labor.

Contractions were picking up on the car ride home, coming about 10-15 minutes apart, and were "for real." I called Tara back when we got home to let her know to expect a call maybe tonight.

We ordered pizza for dinner, and sent Sam off to her karate movie/pizza night. I wasn't sure how much time we had so there was some debate about what time she should come home. Contractions were still 10-13ish minutes apart, as they'd been for most of the day. Jess and Jeremy were at a soccer match an hour away, so they weren't readily available for shuttling Sammy if things switched up fast
Around 9:00, things went from 10 minutes apart to about 5 minutes apart, very quickly. After a half hour of contractions that were that close together, I called Tara to have her come over. She arrived around 9:30, and she hung out for a bit and brought her supplies in. Cully was still awake and bouncing off the walls, so Tara thought if I put him to bed and got Sam home things might pick up. We put hot water in the tub, and Tara was going to bring back her pool cover to keep it warm. She left, said she'd wait to hear from us, and after I put Cully to bed I called Jess and had her swing by on the way home from the match and pick up Sammy from karate. Bella came over about this time and was hanging around upstairs in the hallway, outside the kid's bedroom doors. Sam put on headphones and stayed in her room kind of listening and kind of reading.

I called Molly (the photographer) and she made her way over as well. After I put Cully to bed, things started moving much faster. Contractions were strong enough that I needed help through them. I was on the birthing ball in our room, the pool got filled with hot water, and I got in and had Alex call Tara when we had a half hour of them 1-2 minutes apart. I tried to listen to the Hypnobabies tracks, but that just wasn't working. Tara got there around 10:30, and shortly after her assistant Audra showed up. Molly took lots of shots of us around this time. I labored in the tub for a while, then got out and moved around from the birth ball to the floor, to the bed, and hanging off Alex for them all. I asked him to help remind me to release tension with each contraction, and I was saying to myself during each one "LET GO." I could feel myself tensing up against the pressure and had to really concentrate on relaxing all my muscles, starting with my hands and face and then legs and shoulders and back and finally everything internally. Every so often I would want to disappear by myself, and that was the bathroom. Sitting on the toilet was comfortable and let me focus on "releasing into the pain" instead of tensing up against it. I think it was around this time that I started having to vocalize through the contractions. I felt so stupid, honestly, but it was the ONLY thing that allowed me to "open up" and relax through them. I was either "aaaaaaaaaaaaahing" or "Oooooooooooooohing" or repeating my mantra of "LET GO LET GO LET GO LET GO."

At one point I got out of the tub and my hands were shaking, my legs were shaking, and my teeth were chattering (I was NOT cold, the tub and room were very warm and I was having people put ice cold wash cloths on my neck and arms because of the heat of the pool). I said to Tara "this better be frigging transition" and she assured me that it was most likely getting to that point. I headed into the bathroom again at some point, and decided to check to see if I could feel me, it still felt like I was 3-4 cm. I freaked out and called Tara in to tell her, I was kind of weepy and freaking out at this prospect and told her I was really afraid that I hadn't progressed at all. She said she could check if I really wanted her to, and I said yes because I was losing it. She did a quick exam on the bed and said no, I was at 8-9 cm and very stretchy with a bulging bag of water and that the baby was definitely moving down. This helped me a lot - I got back in the tub, moaning and yelling and straight up whimpering here and there. I know I said a few times that I couldn't do it, and asking for help and telling everyone that it hurt so much. Alex was so good, holding onto me through each contraction (on top of each other at this point) and guiding me through each one. Tara and Audra were both telling me how great things were going, and how each contraction was bringing me closer to the baby being out, and after each one telling me that I wouldn't have to do that one ever again. I remember Tara telling me to "ride it" and that helped as well. I had to really concentrate on releasing tension for each contraction, moreso than before, and it was really hard to do. I was starting to doze off between contractions at this point, my head on the pool.

So at 2:21 am, I was breathing through a REALLY awful contraction that Tara was helping me through and my water broke. I felt the pop and the gush and I felt my eyes pop out of my head as I said "my water just broke" and kind of shrieked a bit, because as soon as that happened the head just FLEW like a freight train through my body. Molly and Audra bolted upstairs (they were downstairs hanging out for a bit). I reached down and could feel her head almost crowning, and was involuntarily pushing. The next few minutes are a blur, but I remember saying that I couldn't stop it, that I was tearing, and then getting some control over myself and saying over and over "it's just the head, it's okay it's okay it's okay." With Cully's birth, feeling his head in the birth canal was a panicky feeling for me and I was having it again, so I somehow managed to have the sense to talk myself out of that and just became okay with the feeling of her head right there. With the next few contractions I let my body push her out, while stretching the tissue around her head with my hands. With the next one I could feel her head coming out, Tara asked me if I wanted to catch my baby, I said yes and she helped me sit back in the water. I yelled out for someone to wake up the kids. I could feel her entire body moving still - arms and legs and feet in very different spots than where I was used to feeling them. It was so bizarre. When I was reaching around I felt something else - I thought it was a cord, and told the midwives as such - her head came out all the way, and Tara felt for the cord. Audra asked her if she could loop it, she said no, they asked me to push with the next contraction. The rest of her body came out at 2:30 am and they helped me pull her up onto my chest. The cord was around her neck three times but she was perfectly pink and screaming. Tara and Audra somersaulted her around a bit to remove the cord, and I checked to see we had a girl! I had to check twice I was so surprised. I yelled to Alex that "It's a Maybe!!" and noticed he was very pale in the hallway. A cord issue was a big fear of his and when he saw the cord and a little flurry of activity from the midwives, he lost it a bit, emotionally. The midwives put warm, wet blankets over her and I while she screamed - her lungs were good! They helped me to the bed a bit later. Alex at this point yelled "HOLY SHIT" and we laughed as everything just sunk in. No tears, no stitches! A small abrasion on each side, but nothing major. Her hand was what I felt by her face, not the cord, we think, looking back on it. I delivered the placenta nearly an hour later, it felt HUGE, it was cut by Alex seconds later.

The midwives helped clean up for a bit, took my blood pressure and pulse and stuff, and then let us hang out for a bit, just Maybe and I and Alex and the kids on the bed watching her yell (she was starting to let up but still had a lot to say. She really WAS comfortable in there!)

Tara helped me into the shower a bit later, which felt great. Alex worked on draining the pool, and around 4:30 Audra and Molly left. Tara went home around 6, Bella had gone downstairs with Cully where he fell asleep on the couch, and Sam had gone back to bed around 4. Alex and I lay in bed, but couldn't sleep much as the adrenaline was still pretty strong. Maybe nursed and slept and looked around for a while before we all got some napping in. It was everything I hoped for the birth to be. I felt incredibly supported by Tara and Audra and of course, Alex, who, just when I think I can't possibly love him any more intensely, manages to prove me wrong. Bella stayed all day long, doing laundry and helping Cully, and Jeremy and Jess brought up a giant, decadent macaroni and cheese. An absolutely amazing support team.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Welcome Milo Jackson! Born on 5/4/10

A soft landing.

Our first child, Milo Jackson Yeh Sperry, was born on May 4th. Within 30 minutes of being discharged from the hospital, there was Tara, sitting in our living room, helping us get to know our newest family member.

Like most new parents, we'd spent most of our time focused on the pregnancy and the delivery. However, as soon as Milo was on the scene, breathing and delivery techniques were quickly replaced with breastfeeding, diapers and an entirely new world order. Tara was just the guide we needed. Warm. Positive. Confident. Nurturing. And most importantly, fun. "Fun" is not something usually associated with the first two weeks, but we really credit Tara for helping to make it possible.

Here's a few pictures of the little guy, including a few of his "firsts." Luckily, we were able to give Tara a few "firsts" of her own… including her first Dr Suess massage and a Tummy Tub bath.

We were honored to get to know Milo with Tara's help.

A soft landing, indeed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome Arie! Born on 12.19.09

After being with Sarah and Craig half way through the night...I received a phone call from my sister saying "my water just broke." So I got home and had 2 hours of sleep then attended my # 2 nephew's birth. VERY COOL:) My sister worked very hard and did an amazing job laboring. Welcome sweet Arie Spek. He was born at 2.45 pm and weighed 9.02 lbs. A pretty sturdy little guy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Welcome Maceo! Born 12.19.09

Congrats to parents, Sarah Poulter and Craig Melzer! Maceo Isaac Melzer was born on December 19, 2010 at 6:46pm. He weighed 8 pounds 7 ounces and was 21 inches long. Unfortunately, I ended up missing Maceo's birth (my back up doula-Sarafina Kennedy went instead) since my sister went into labor the same day. More to come.....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The birth of Rassa June, born at home, 1:43pm

I had been having waves of nausea and on and off short spurts of mild contractions that were a bit stronger than Braxton-Hicks for a good 3 weeks. I woke up on 12/8 because my downstairs neighbors were noisy and I was enraged and weepy. I think this was the upsurge of estrogen that precedes labor. I calmed down, and tried to relax and have a restful day. When Seth came home we went for a long 2-hour walk. On the way home I got an enormous roast beef sandwich and some cookies and woofed the whole lot down. I went to bed around midnight. At 2:30 am (now 12/9) I woke up to pee and had some bloody show when I wiped. That got my attention. But I had been determined to not have any false alarms, so I shrugged it off and went back to bed.

Within a half hour of lying back down I was having mild crampy period contractions not unlike what I had in the weeks before. But soon they turned into something a bit sharper and closer together (all within 10 minutes of each other). There was no way I was going to sleep through them. I still wasn't convinced this was the real thing, but I woke up Seth at 3:30. We lay in bed and talked about what to do, whether this was real or just more warm up labor. Around 4am I got up and took a hot shower (I had the irrational thought, “I can’t have a baby with dirty hair”). Seth began cleaning and prep in the kitchen, where we were going to set up the birth pool.

After the shower I checked email, had some oatmeal and trail mix, listened to birth affirmations and strolled around the apartment. The contractions began to get closer together and strong, different from the period cramp contractions. They weren’t all that painful, partly because I didn’t stay still through them. I breathed and swayed and rocked and let them wash over me, thinking about opening my cervix. I was mostly on the opposite side of the apartment from Seth, content to be alone and do my own thing, with occasional forays into the kitchen to say hi. I also had to use the bathroom like 20 times.

By 6 am I wasn't able to really talk through them and they were about 5 minutes apart and close to a minute. At 7am Seth called the midwives, who, as luck would have it, were at another birth, which had begun an hour before mine. Luckily hers was going fast too... We didn’t know this at the time though. I think both they and we thought I had much more time than I did.

I continued to wander around the house, listening to birth affirmations and leaning against walls and into chairs, swaying through the contractions. I took a second shower, which felt like heaven, and that really seemed to speed things up. Around 8am I began moaning through them, not because they hurt, but because it was a way to release, to let them wash over me. I asked Seth to get the pool ready, since we had estimated it would take 2 hours. I didn't know if I was jumping the gun because it was our first time, but things seemed to be moving along pretty quick and I could almost feel my cervix opening. Seth also kept in touch with Audra and Tara about once an hour.

After 8am I was in my bedroom leaning against the wall on the floor in a hip opening posture. I was trying to rest but I found lying down through a contraction made them really hurt and it was annoying to have to scramble to my hands and knees every 3-4 minutes. During a contraction it was much easier to get on my hands and knees and rock back and forth from a sitting position. I stopped talking at this point too, except for the occasional monosyllabic necessary communication. One of these was to ask Seth for a bowl when he came in to time contractions again. I felt somewhat nauseous but didn’t end up throwing up or really even getting close.

Around 10:30am I got in the pool, which was not warm enough, and Seth was frantically boiling water in our big pots, waiting for the water heater to recover. But it was good enough. It made the contractions, which had gotten much more intense, so much better and it made my body easier to relax. I must have been in transition at this point because I was thinking, "This is really hard, I don't want to do this anymore" and "We are so not having any more kids." But I didn't actually say anything beyond grunting, monosyllabic demands and hand waving. My moaning at this point was still sounding like I was having really loud, really good sex. But Seth and I were still alone and didn't know how far along I was, though at this point we knew that Tara was on her way from the other birth. It was snowing and generally very bad weather outside so the drive was long.

At about 11:15 I had a contraction that ended in an involuntary push and we were still alone. I was so surprised, and at that point I thought maybe we should have someone here with us who knew what the hell they were doing! Seth just assured me that Tara was on her way and held my hand. I think we sat in peaceable silence. I just continued to let my body do its thing, neither fighting nor encouraging it.

Fifteen minutes later Tara arrived and a little later Rebecca came (Audra had stayed behind at the other birth to finish up). At some point Molly, the student photographer, came too, but my recall of this time is not so good. I do know that my vocalization shifted at this point to more of an animalistic grunting. The contractions were pretty intense and I was totally inwardly focused, clutching Seth's hand and shoulders in a death grip and hanging over the side of the pool in between, which didn't seem that long (2-3 minutes). This was the most painful point for me; there was this dull painful pressure all around my pelvic bone, which I later realized was my bag of waters.

The whole labor I could feel the baby's feet pushing against my upper and then mid-belly, like she was helping me by trying to push her own way out. The whole time I was concentrating on taking long, slow, deep breaths and during contractions exhaling with a low moan and loose jaw. I drank a lot of water too. The midwives monitored the baby while I was pushing and she was doing fine. I think I was a little crabby about being monitored because I had to shift positions to help them find the baby’s heart beat with the Doppler.

I think somewhere around 12:30pm Tara told me that I could start pushing, so I tentatively began to put some effort into those involuntary pushes that were happening on their own. At this point (I think) my water broke with a loud pop that kind of scared me and made me clench up. But relief was almost instantaneous, and the pushing began to get much more serious. Contractions would start with two or three pretty intense pushes and then begin to taper off. That beginning two or three involuntary pushes were when I added my own active efforts.

Tara and Rebecca were encouraging me and Seth seemed to take his cue about what to do from them and he began encouraging me too. They were praising me for how careful of my perineum I was being by not heaving her out in one go. At one point I was reaching down to support myself and Tara told me I could reach down and feel the baby’s head if I wanted. I snatched my hand back; I didn’t want to be reminded about what was going on from the outside, it would break my concentration. Tara also told me I should wait for a second after the head came out so that she could make sure the cord wasn’t wrapped around the baby’s neck. I felt her head come out in increments, got the all clear and then (probably a little too enthusiastically but I was ready to be done) gave one good heave and she shot out into the water like a cannon ball.

The midwives caught her and put her on my chest, but I couldn't bring her up very far because the cord was pretty short. Because of this, having some mucus in her mouth suctioned out, she got pissed. This is when things got stressful. She cried for a good 30 minutes and was too angry to nurse. I had gotten out of the water at this point was reclined on some pillows and blankets on the kitchen floor against the fridge. I gave her to Seth to do some skin-to-skin and calm down while I delivered the placenta. He did managed to calm her down by singing her Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia. After a couple of hours I was getting worried because she hadn't nurse yet and was only calm while dozing. She screamed through the whole newborn exam and was too upset to nurse until close to 6pm. I was feeling shaky and all this was pretty overwhelming.. Argh!

Tara stayed and helped me get her to nurse a little and help Seth with the worst of the clean up (draining the nasty water out of the tub). After she left the baby was still really cranky. If we moved her she screamed. But around 1am, she farted, shat a diaper load of meconium and barfed up what looked like the rest of that mucus that was in her mouth at birth, and calmed down immediately. And the next morning, I got to wake up in bed with Seth and our new baby, Rassa June, to hang out, work on breastfeeding and rest.

I feel so totally lucky to have had the kind of birth that I wanted that seemed surprisingly easy to handle. It was painful there at the end, but not unreasonably so and didn’t go on for too long. I got to stay at home and I never had to deal with things I didn’t want to. Tara and Audra were important in making this happen for me throughout my pregnancy and birth. Welcome Rassa, aka Angry Goddess.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Baby Annika's Beautiful birth Story: 9/19/09

The contractions began on Friday, September 18th, 2009 at 11 pm. Kyle was watching the end of the movie, Watchmen, when I came down and told him that contractions had started. This was the 3rd time they began and I was 10 days late so we were hoping this was the real deal. The contractions weren't painful yet, just present, so I couldn't sleep. They started to become more regular at 2 am and I woke Kyle up to call Tara Kenny, our midwife. Over the previous 7 months, Tara had made home visits monthly, then bi-weekly, then weekly. I came to anticipate each visit as it was really nice to talk about what my body was going through. In the end, she became a close friend.

Back to the birth. I turned on the tv to keep me from going crazy in the middle of the night and The Cosby Show was on...and while I chuckled, the contractions got REAL. After reading every birth story I could get my hand on, I was disappointed not to find a description of what the contractions were like and I swore I would try my best to convey the feeling. As my friend, Tracy Blankenship, told me...contractions feel like "the countdown", which is the feeling one gets when they have 10 seconds to find a bathroom before their drawers are completely wrecked. In other words, the worst intestinal cramps you can imagine. There's definitely sweating and concentrating involved, but there's also a menstrual element to it. At that point in the birth, contractions were 10 minutes apart and about 30 seconds long. To attempt relaxation I hopped in the shower and cranked up the heat. Holding the shower head directly on my stomach made a HUGE difference in lessening the contraction intensity. And this is when I knew it was time to fill the birthing tub with water, which begins my fondest memories.

First Stage. It was about 4 am when I climbed into the tub. We set it up a month prior near our gynormous windows in the living area. Kyle hooked up the garden hose to our kitchen sink and turned on the hot water. There were also two heating pads within the tub that maintained the temperature. When the water was full to the recommended line, I could sit cross legged on the floor and the water level would sit right below my shoulders, but I did a lot of belly-up floating with my hands and the ground holding me. Kyle laid on our small couch in the fetal position trying to sleep while I worked through the contractions. Our mac played a Pandora radio station that I specifically made for the birth with a lot of Sigur Ros, but it would also insert some Death Cab for Cutie, Postal Service and Jose Gonzalez. When I first laid down in the tub, I rested my head on the edge with my eyes looking up out the window at the stars. Slowly, the dawn started to show and contractions got more intense as the sun came up.
Second Stage. Right about the time that Tara came over, around 8:30 a.m., I had started to pace and at the onset of a contraction, I would lean against a counter and concentrate. Tara guided me through the hard ones. I would switch between the tub, to our bed upstairs, to the kitchen and the shower. Audra Karp, another wonderful midwife and Tara's backup arrived around noon. They both fed me water, smoothies and applesauce. Tara also took my temperature, monitored the baby's heart rate with a stethoscope, and monitored my heart rate/blood pressure periodically throughout labor.
Transition. During the hardest part, the transition stage, I was on our bed with the birthing ball and the contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and I would take a nap in between. Tara had me walk down to the shower and every time I got up to walk, the contractions came faster. In the shower, I got down on my hands and knees and felt the need to push. After Tara checked to measure my dilation, I was still a centimeter away from full dilation. So I worked through another hour on our bed with Kitty standing by... at one point I thought, I'm not going to have the energy and just wanted the whole thing to go away and let me sleep.
Pushing. Around 5 pm, I got in the tub and started pushing. For motivation, Tara told me to feel inside me for the head. I thought she was crazy and I was pretty delirious at this point, but I did. This was equivalent to seeing the 12 mile marker in a half marathon. I could feel the head and one small, unbroken bag of water in front of it. The pushing then became a fight to the finish and even though I was beyond exhausted, I knew that it was almost over and the surprise would be here. When the head was crowning, it truly felt like a ring of fire. Tara coached me to slow down and take deep breaths so I wouldn't tear anything, so as hard as it was, I put the brakes on. The head slowly came out, thirty seconds went by and the body came out under water. Tara handed me the baby and I was able to see that I had a GIRL! Annika laid on me crying as exhaustion blanketed me. I looked at Kyle and wept.
Post-birth. Tara and Audra helped me out of the tub and lied me on our couch covered with a bunch of chux pads. They helped Annika nurse on me to stimulate contractions so they could retrieve the placenta and Kyle unintentionally sat right across from me as they did this...first time I had a laugh in 24 hours. Now it was time to pee, which seemed daunting. They helped me to the bathroom. The three of them wanted to feed me something substantial, but I just wanted smoothies and to go to sleep. Tara's husband brought over an air mattress and we "slept" downstairs in our living area with Annika in between us.
The Morning After. My body was still pretty exhausted, but I was on a high every time I noticed the small bundle laying there and from what my body did the day before. "Did I really do that?" I kept asking myself. I felt so empowered. One of my favorite shows, CBS Sunday Morning was on and Kyle made me a HUGE breakfast. Tara visited us that night to help with breastfeeding and check on Annika and I.
Thank goodness Kyle had the week off from work! He helped me walk around the condo, take Sitz bathes and cook ungodly amounts of food while I taught myself and coaxed Annika on breastfeeding.
People ask me if I had the choice to do a home birth again, would I? ABSOLUTELY! I treated my pregnancy like a training period for a marathon. Three times a week for Yoga and twice a week to weight lifting and sculpting and to get to the gym I rode my bike. I actually rode my bike two days past my due date which was liberating. Per Tara's recommendation, I also made weekly appointments during the final 6 weeks for acupuncture and chiropractic care. My acupuncturist, Sharon Levy, was extremely knowledgeable about pregnancy and induction methods and her sessions really relaxed me. Lisa Geiger was my chiropractor and she did an excellent job at aligning my body to make labor a seamless process! The whole point of all this is, I was in control of the pregnancy and the birth. Owning the birth, with Tara as the guide, was the best decision I've made in my life, and if we live far away from Tara for our second child, I want to fly her to me for that birth!